‘Don’t move to a commuter town – a lonely and isolating experience’

It took two house moves for this Dublin couple to find the right home, in Co Mayo

 Aidan and Marina Murphy with their daughter Anna, aged 4 at their home in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan

Aidan and Marina Murphy with their daughter Anna, aged 4 at their home in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan

 

They say that moving house is near the top of the leader board when it comes to stressful events – so most people try to keep it to a minimum.

But Marina Murphy and her husband Aidan have lived in three different houses in the past three years as they tried to find the perfect location to live, work and raise their daughter Anna Lily (4).

The couple started off in Dublin before making the decision to move to Drogheda but after living there for a year, they realised that it wasn’t the right choice so decided to head west to Marina’s native Mayo.

“At first we lived in Kilmainham and then Clancy Quay in Islandbridge for a while before Anna came along,” says Marina, who trained in culinary arts and ran restaurants in both Dublin and Mayo. “We then moved to a three-bed house in Kilmainham but realised it wasn’t the right choice for us as the rent was colossal. Also, I had decided that if I was lucky enough to have a child, I would try to stay at home as much as I could until preschool age and this wasn’t possible as we were both working.

“So we moved out of Dublin, sold our business [a restaurant], bought a house in Drogheda and got married – all within the space of four months.”

Marina and Aidan moved to a small estate in Drogheda, which was a 15-minute walk to the train station (essential for his commute to the city where he worked as a solicitor). The house didn’t require much work, but they knocked a few walls to make it more open plan and had intentions of building an extension – but then their plans changed.

He spent nearly 3½ hours commuting every day and I found it a very lonely and isolating experience

“Drogheda is a big busy town and Aidan originally comes from the area,” says Marina. “We got to know our next-door neighbours, Tony and Siobhan but that was it. Our mortgage was over €700 per month, so it was definitely cheaper, but Aidan would be gone from the house from 6am until 7pm – he spent nearly 3½ hours commuting every day [which shows how slow and inept our public transport is] and I found it a very lonely and isolating experience.

“We weren’t happy so decided to move back to Mayo in 2017. In hindsight we should have moved there beforehand but we didn’t think we would be able to because of Aidan’s job which is quite specialised [he works in regulatory law, data protection, cyber and sports law] but when he broached the subject with his employer, they were very supportive. As an international law firm, remote and agile working is something they were very familiar with.

“So in June 2018, we sold the house and moved out west.”

The family moved to Ballinrobe and now live a 10-minute walk outside the small town.

“Our new house is in a small estate of 15 houses,” says Marina. “It’s 40 minutes from Galway, half an hour from Westport or Castlebar and near Cong and Ashford Castle. The Wild Atlantic Way is a short drive away and, on a Sunday, we often go to the Reek [Croagh Patrick], Achill Island, Connemara or Killary Harbour – it’s all in our doorstep.

“Life is much better – in Dublin it would be spent sitting in traffic, whereas down here the school run is five minutes. It’s easier to get around, whether to the shops, for a walk or going for a coffee and Anna has cousins here as well which is great.

“Also, everyone knows everyone – the anonymity of the city can be great sometimes but not so great also – we know our neighbours here and there is a real community spirit, which we didn’t have in Dublin. Of course, the lack of nightlife and taxis can be a downside, but that’s not really what we are looking for at the moment.”

Marina bought the house in 2006 when she was single and self-employed and now both she and Aidan work from home – he travels to Dublin once a or twice a week and as the inventor of the Twosie (a baby’s vest which comes in two parts) she runs her own company –Babybossonline.com – from the comfort of her front room. They didn’t need to make any changes to the structure but have plans to for future expansion.

Working from home is much more productive and Aidan can do school run or drop Anna where she needs to go, which he would never have been able to do in Dublin or Drogheda

“We haven’t done any work to the house yet since we moved back, but if BabyBoss keeps growing we have ideas of getting an architect to help reconfigure the house to put the living area and kitchen upstairs so we can look out on the mountains and sunset,” she says. “There is plenty of wasted space and I have lots of plans.

“Working from home is much more productive and Aidan can do school run or drop Anna where she needs to go, which he would never have been able to do in Dublin or Drogheda. Sometimes he has to go to London but flying from Knock is completely hassle-free compared to the mayhem of Dublin airport.

“For a while my desk was the kitchen table, but now we’ve turned one of the rooms into an office and stock-room for the Twosies. Starting your own business in really really hard and sometimes it’s a bit isolating to be working on your own, but I’ve had lots of support from the Empowerher.ie programme, the Local Enterprise Office and Network Mayo.”

The quality of life is so much better so go west and join the Wild Atlantic Way

The mother-of-one says their lifestyle change has been incredibly positive so others thinking of doing the same thing should seize the day and just go for it.

“If someone was thinking of moving out of the city but wasn’t sure about it, I’d tell them to do what they have to do to get out,” she says. “Don’t move to a commuter town and drive or get the train to the city – houses are cheaper but life isn’t necessarily better.

“Instead move to the outskirts of a rural town and you will be in the country but within walking distance of a town. And work from home. Agile or remote working is increasingly common, and most office jobs can be done from home these days as it saves office space for employers. The quality of life is so much better so go wWest and join the Wild Atlantic Way.

“I think people thought we were stone mad when we made the move, but now I think more and more people are doing it – it is the best decision we ever made.”

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